Typicality in Chinese sentence processing : evidence from offline judgment and online self-paced reading
MetadataShow full item record
This study examines how Chinese speakers understand sentences describing events that have varying degrees of typicality. How the interpretation of typicality is obtained from linguistic input is not fully understood. In this study, I investigate the association of pairs of content words in order to determine their contribution to judgments of event typicality. The associations between words could influence the interpretation of event typicality. Two words that are not associated semantically, for example baby and wine, may be seen as an atypical combination. However, when these words are placed in a sentence context, the resulting sentences can be a typical scenario, such as the baby spilled the wine. Four offline judgment studies were conducted to obtain quantitative measurements of the association of word pairs and of judgments of event typicality in sentences. These studies demonstrated that noun pairs showed larger differences in their association ratings than those of noun-verb pairs. When the sentences containing the word pairs were judged, the association of the noun pair strongly influenced the sentence’s event typicality ratings, regardless of word order or of the typicality of the verb. Two online, word-by-word self-paced reading studies were conducted to examine whether judgments of word associations and event typicality are used in real-time sentence processing. The results showed that there was a slowdown in reading times at the critical regions when the noun pairs were atypical. The typicality of the verb did not result in a difference in reading times, regardless of the word order of the sentences, although offline judgment scores of event typicality were predictive of online reading times. The findings of these studies suggest that: (1) event typicality is more than the semantic association between words. Noun-noun and noun-verb associations contribute to event typicality but the association of two nouns has a more significant contribution and is not affected by an intervening word, (2) the typicality of verbs contributed to real-time sentence processing, insofar as the verbs contributed to the judged typicality of the events expressed by SVO and SOV clauses, and (3) in real-time sentence processing, regardless of the sentence’s word order, the association of nouns has greater impact on event typicality processing. This is not likely to be due simply to a priming effect between nouns, but rather also reflects the processing of the sentence’s event typicality.